Once upon a time, people could only hope they would live long enough to draw Social Security. People over 50 were considered old. At 65, people were commonly referred to as ‘elderly.’ Now it is no longer appropriate to suggest most people over 65 are ‘elderly.’ Referring to older people as ‘senior citizens’ can also be perceived as outdated. Unlike earlier generations, most of us now anticipate a generous gift of time. A good many of us also see ourselves at a new beginning point rather than at the end.
Times have changed. Today, people in their fifties and beyond are starting new careers, new businesses, going back to school and living life to the fullest. Older adults are discovering new ways to enjoy living their best lives.
For those of you in your fifties, you may have at least half of your adult lives yet to live. For those of us who are already sixty-five, living for another two or even three decades is possible. Just think – we can do something of our own choosing that really matters to us. It’s largely up to us what we do with the rest of our lives.
Jump-Starting the Next Chapter
In a sense, we get to write the next chapter of our lives. The only problem is a lot of us get ‘writer’s block’ when the creation of our next chapter is in our own hands. Once we finally have freedom, we aren’t sure how to use it. At the same time, we are aware that the gift of time has an expiration date.
To jump-start your new beginning, it helps to do a little self-assessment work so you know what it is you really want. Start by asking yourself how satisfied you are with status-quo in different areas of your life. Here are some examples of those areas:
- Activities that provide a sense of accomplishment/satisfaction
- Emotional health (including maintaining a positive attitude)
- Sufficient mental stimulation/mental challenges
- A sense of purpose/meaning
- How your time is managed
- Physical well-being
- Relationship with a significant other (if applicable)
- Social network/friends (other than workplace friends, if applicable)
- Relationship with children or other family members
Now that you’ve taken a broad assessment of a few important areas of your overall well-being, identify ones that you are generally very satisfied/satisfied with and any that you are dissatisfied/dissatisfied with overall.
What Areas of Your Life are Most Satisfying?
For those areas that you find are especially satisfying, jot down some thoughts as to why you feel satisfied with these areas. For example, I am very satisfied with sufficient mental stimulation right now because I’m constantly reading (both research and material related to my interests), and I am having to learn a lot of new technology for the work I am currently doing.
Now ask yourself if you anticipate that you’ll be as satisfied with the same areas in ten or fifteen years from now. If not, what are some adjustments you would be willing to make so that you can continue feeling good about certain areas of your life? For example, I had some strong work-place connections before I retired. Those connections were important to me. Before retiring, I had to start developing new connections. It took effort for me to reach out to people because I tend to be a quieter person. However, I know that social connections are very important for our overall well-being—especially as we prepare for a new beginning.
Are There Areas Where You Want to Increase Life-Satisfaction?
Finally, ask yourself if you are currently dissatisfied with any area in your life? If so, why is it dissatisfying? Is there anything that has changed in your life to increase your dissatisfaction in the area(s) you’ve identified? If so, ask yourself if there are things within your control that could change or increase your satisfaction in one or more areas of your life?
I can no longer do some of the same physical activities that I did one I was younger (e.g. running). Even though I was not happy about the fact that my knees now rebel when I even try to jog at a slow pace, I am learning to take brisk walks and ride my bike more often; these activities are now becoming deeply satisfying. I had the power to make an appropriate adjustment so that I can be satisfied with my physical well-being.
What Will You Do with Your Gift of Time?
Having time is a wonderful gift. However, it is like a gift card with an expiration date. If you don’t use it, you can lose the benefit of that gift. It takes some effort to make wise choices for our future selves. Thinking about the best of our lives today while planning for tomorrow is a good start.